Should the final resting place for America’s 16th President and his family be part of a city’s civic pride or be used to pad the profits of a private company? Should the man who freed the slaves, saved the Union and whose funeral is considered “the greatest funeral in the history of the United States” be buried in publically-run Oak Ridge Cemetery or should that cemetery be the next piece in privately-run StoneMor Partner’s national network of properties?
That is the question that has been suddenly thrust upon Springfield, Illinois aldermen after it was revealed that Mayor Mike Houston and other city officials have been in behind the scenes conversations with StoneMor.
The company, whose top executive were tied to another large funeral company found to be underfunding cemeteries in Minnesota and not fulfilling contracts for burial vaults, is the only company that has been involved in the privatization conversations.
The take of the State Journal-Register’s editorial board? “Oak Ridge Cemetery’s budget, management and operations are, in fact, taxpayer issues” writes the State Journal-Register’s editorial board. “Outsourcing its management merits a great deal of thoughtful discussion in the community. No matter what a person thinks about the issue of privatizing public functions, it’s not a debate that should take place in closed session.”
“The fire department doesn’t break even, the police department doesn’t break even, the library doesn’t break even,” said Ward 7 Ald. Joe McMenamin who thinks that the cemetery is a basic city service.
“Park ‘em and mark ‘em, mow and go,” said Loretta Stanaway, a leader of a Lansing, Michigan group called Friends of Lansing’s Historic Cemeteries which fought a similar proposal by StoneMor. “They don’t want headstones, they don’t want anything that’s going to slow down a mower or a weed whacker. If you like a green lawn with plastic flowers, it’s right up your alley.”